Robin Williams’ Top 5 Performances



Chris here. Having not known much about the personal life of Robin Williams, I can’t imagine trying to give the man an eulogy. But what I will say as far as his body of work on stage and film, Williams was one of the few comedic voices who shaped my childhood and adult life (with the little sense of humor I may have.)  Not having a close relationship with my own father, I naturally attached myself to the men of the silver screen without knowing who they really were off screen. Williams was one of those father figures I connected to at an early age with his youthful energy and spontaneous behavior in films, various television interviews; he had all the makings of a living toy.  His ability to show his warmth and craziness in one seen showed the duality of the sad clown; making him a comedic hero to me. My list is a personal top 5.  I’m not saying this is the holy grail of what should be considered the great Robin Williams performances, these are just what I connect with him the most, especially now in his death.  So, I’m sorry die hard Hook fans, I love that movie but it didn’t make the cut along with Good Morning Vietnam because it’s one of the few of Robin Williams films I haven’t seen.

Honorable mention:

LOUIE – Barney/Never, Season 3 Ep. 6
In this eight-minute opening segment of Louie (Barney), Williams makes a surprising cameo as himself, attending a funeral of an old friend with Louis C.K. The two are the only ones at the funeral.  Although it’s a short piece, its very effective and perhaps gives us the closest glimpse of who Robin Williams was away from the cameras.  As with everything once a person dies, it is a bit haunting to watch the somber Williams attending a funeral.

My top 5 picks:

In this 1996 comedy, Robin Williams is asked to do something he rarely does in comedic films: direct the ship by playing the straight man to Nathan Lane’s and Hank Azaria’s more memorable comedic performances.  What you can appreciate most about Williams’ performance in The Birdcage is his willingness to give the floor to his fellow actors.  Doing what few funny men at their prime have the ability to do, by not always being the funniest person in the room.

Prior to Disney’s Aladdin, it wasn’t common to hear celebrity voices in animated films.  For better or worse, Williams amazing voice work as Genie in Aladdin brought celebrity voices to animation.  With perhaps the most memorable introduction to a character in Disney history, Williams’ Genie is uniquely his own.  It’s been rumored, that most of Williams dialogue was improvised. You do completely get the feeling that they just allowed him to go at his own rhythm in the introduction scene.

Although my feelings toward the film itself sways the appreciation to lukewarm at times, I never find myself uninterested by Robin Williams’ deserving Oscar winning performance.  At the time of the release of the film in 1997, Williams was struggling at the box office and critically with his past few films (Jack and Father’s Day).  Losing his status as the funniest man, he did something unlikely by co-starring in this drama as therapist, Dr. Sean Maguire, given the task of finding the demons of troubled lead, Will Hunting.  Robin Williams’ performance isn’t flashy by any account, but instead is a sincere performance of the older and now more gentle Williams.  This performance has the added bonus of being part of one of the few “all guys cry watching this scene” with the “It’s not your fault” scene between Robin Williams and Matt Damon.

This pick is most likely coming from a place of sincere sadness for the lose of Robin Williams, in what is truly a sweet performance.  Hardly his most known or critically acclaimed performance but perhaps the closest you’ll see of the internal sadness of Williams.  What I love most about him in this film is that this would be one of those opportunities for Williams to play crazy to the extreme but instead he holds back when necessary. I would have liked to have seen Terry Gillman (director of The Fisher King) and Williams work together more often; their anarchist dark humor seemed like it would have lent itself to more collaborations.

When all is said and done, this is the performance in which Williams will be most remembered for; it’s his “Like A Rolling Stone” ballad. It’s the perfect accumulation of everything we love about Williams as a performer. His vast collection of voices and characters, in which he just needed two or three seconds to give you the full personality of the creation. The sad clown, who can easily make you cry soon after laughing and the absolute belief that he was a 60 something British women.  When the books are written about the best performance by a man in drag, Williams is going to rule over Dustin Hoffman’s 1982 Tootsie performance. Just saying.

Robin Williams will be among the list of most missed movie stars. According to social media, there are few people who weren’t touched by his humor in the roles that he played. I would love to know what is your favorite Robin Williams performance.

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